Landscape architects from Chow:Hill’s Auckland studio attended 2017 NZILA’s Small Urban Conference.
Earlier this year, Landscape Architects Grace He and Sarah Peddie, from our Newmarket studio, attended the 2017 NZILA's Conference held in Wellington. The theme of this year's conference was 'Small Urban', and over the two days this topic was explored through a series of talks from New Zealand and overseas speakers, and through field trips around Wellington.
The conference examined how we design our urban spaces and how to do so in a way that makes them quality places in which to live. It covered the broad themes of Social, Advocating, Moving and Wild Urban, as different people shared their approaches and experiences of design and projects in the urban environment.
A couple of speakers in particular stood out for challenging the way we design places and respond to design challenges in cities.
Lisa Diedrich, a Professor of Landscape Architecture from Sweden, questioned the often unrealised, but very present binary distinctions in design, such as the separation of urban and rural. By rethinking urban design, including questioning who the driver is in creating spaces in cities, new relevant and exciting outcomes occur. She cited inspiring examples of communities engaging with, and mixing up the usual sequence of a project where typically place is followed by project then plan, and in doing so creating more interesting spaces.
Another inspiring speaker was Marco Casagrande, a Finnish Architect. He looks at the way we see built and unbuilt form and the distinction between them. His provocative works challenge the boundaries of building and landscape, which leads to fascinating new forms. His designs are an extraordinary blend of building and landscape, which are both livable and living; organic buildings intertwined with plants. His unique way of seeing the design of cities opens the door to a more experimental and dynamic approach to designing and living in spaces.
Overall, the conference explored the decisions Landscape Architects can make during the course of a project. By engaging with the process and being willing to make perhaps smaller changes, we can open things up for debate that have the potential to lead to larger outcomes. A 'small urban' way of thinking is less of a focus on the outcome, and more of an active way of designing. It provides an alternative path to that of globalisation and uniformity. It means that while we stay connected to the global, we find unique design solutions that are relevant to a place, and so leading to the creation of more unique projects relevant to their particular context.
For our Auckland, and New Zealand context, we take this as an encouragement and a challenge to explore within our own projects the opportunity for flexible and adaptable processes, to avoid the over-planned and to accept the accidental, to think of small, provocative but engaging and bespoke interventions.
September 29, 2017